Decoding

When I posted Mr. Open-minded Seldom Is, it got me thinking about other ways people describe themselves, particularly online.

I’ve been reading online profiles, and getting to know the real people behind them, for about 27 years. That’s right, there was a ‘net back in 1985. The technology looked a lot different back then, but human nature changes much more slowly than technology. Over all of those years I’ve noticed certain patterns—instances of high correlations and tight covariants indicating a high probability of predictive success—which may serve as warning signs as one navigates the worlds of social networks, et al.

Gene’s Guide to Decoding Online Profiles

Open-minded: As explained in more detail earlier, when a person feels the need to mention their open-mindedness in their online profile, it frequently means that they have been accused often enough of being narrow-minded or intolerant that they are now trying to preempt more accusations. Some are genuinely trying to be open-minded, whether because they feel guilty about how some of their past behavior hurt someone, or because they don’t like other people to think them intolerant. Others think that open-minded means smiling condescendingly at people, ideas, or behaviors they disapprove of—sometimes even encouraging the behavior—only to ridicule and condemn it later when the person isn’t around.

Not everyone who mentions being open-minded falls into the above categories, of course. However, the more prominently it is mentioned in the profile (particularly in conjunction with near synonyms: tolerant, easygoing), the more likely it is to be a codeword for one of these other traits. There is a strong gender correlation, guys being extremely more likely to be the sort of person who is the exact opposite of what the word is supposed to mean. That goes triple if they put open-minded or a synonym into their user name.

Discreet: Discreet (rhymes with cheat) has slightly different meanings depending on where you find it. If it’s in guy’s profile in any social network where most of the users are heterosexual, it means, “I am involved in a relationship where my partner thinks we’re monogamous, but I am constantly looking for someone to fool around with.” This code meaning is usually only used by women on an explicit dating site.

If you find the word in a guy’s profile on any even vaguely gay site (not just hook-up or dating sites), it means, “I am a closet case who donates to anti-gay causes in my real life, and say horrible things about gay people whenever it comes up, but can’t get enough sex with men.” Usually married (to some unfortunate woman who has no idea) and scared to death that someone is going to guess he’s gay, so he represses any part of his personality that he thinks of as non-masculine and may overcompensate in gay-friendly settings. Doubly true if he also describes himself as masculine.

If he goes so far as to say, “you would never know if you met me” he’s extremely bad at the repression (as in, gayer than a clutch purse full of daffodils in a Glee finale), he pings the most oblivious person’s gaydar from miles away, and you will be astounded at how deeply in denial his wife must be not to have guessed.

Intense: when a person describes their personality as “intense” it means that they are a world-class jerk. Typically they want things their way, never have any sympathy or understanding of other viewpoints, and don’t think much of the social niceties.

Hint to anyone whose friends have ever told you that you have an intense personality: this is polite code for “you are extremely difficult to put up with, and we frequently have to apologize to our other friends for your rude behavior.”

Tired of drama: When someone says they are tired of drama or games it means either they are holding on to a lot of resentment about past relationships, or they are the justified cause of the resentment in all their exes. In the latter case, the person is living under the delusion that drama is when other people object to their rude, obnoxious, and self-centered behavior. Often the person seems incapable of talking about anything but those past dramas.

I work hard and play hard: Half-true at best. This often means, “my schedule and plans will always come first, and if we become friends or more, you will be lucky if I even think to tell you before I make plans that impact you.” Sometimes it is code for, “I am an extremely heavy drinker/partier, but if challenged I will rationalize it by talking about the stress of my job.”

Honesty is important to me: Usually this means the person is a controlling jerk with a habit of biting the heads off of people who express opinions they dislike. This has caused their previous friends and relationships to develop habits of keeping unpleasant information from them which, when it finally comes to light, causes them to become angry at said friends or significant other for “lying” to them.

If they aren’t controlling, they’re refusing to let go of resentment about some past problems with their exes. See “Tired of drama” above.

Fun-loving: On the face of it, this is simply a meaningless statement. Who doesn’t love fun? Since there are millions of things that people find fun (and for every fun activity you can name there are millions of people who don’t enjoy it) this could mean anything.

But depending on the context, “fun-loving” can tell you some things.

If you’re on a dating site, it most probably means the person has no clue how to describe themself and have resorted to clichés. It can mean that they are afraid to say anything that might scare off a potential date. This latter is most likely if they also list a lot of generic activities that they like.

If they are a guy, and if none of the photos of themselves show them smiling, grinning, or having even a twinkle in their eye, it often means that all of their ideas of fun have to do with inflicting pain or ridicule on others. Look for other key phrases such as “easygoing” and “friends say I have a wicked sense of humor” to confirm that they are angry, bitter, verbally abusive guys who don’t realize that often people laugh around them in hopes of not becoming the next target of abuse and ridicule.

“, actually” When used to qualify any positive trait, means they are tired of people calling them on the opposite trait.

I don’t own a TV/I loathe mainstream TV: This means, “I am a judgmental snob.” Often also means that they have a disturbingly large collection of some specific type of television series/movies series/sports series/games which they spend far more time watching on their computer or other device than the average channel-surfing couch potato, and will become outraged when you point out that really isn’t all that different than watching “mainstream TV.”

And since it isn’t the 1990s any more, it also means they have no clue that pop culture has moved far beyond the point where there are any single networks getting enough of an audience for the word “mainstream” to have any relevance to the television medium—a bit over half the shows on the big networks get fewer viewers per week than many viral YouTube videos. Time to update your snobbery!

I hate writing these/I don’t know what to say: Means either the person has been called out in the past for a grossly inaccurate or misleading profile, or the person spent an ungodly number of hours trying to craft a profile that appears spontaneous and simple, or the person is really insecure and bad at expressing themself.

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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. I publish an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live in Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

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